MONTHLY THOUGHT LEADER
Thoughts from a member of our Team as a leader in the affordable housing industry.
Mosaic’s History is Women’s History
Senior Development Manager
As many of you may know, Archway is currently renovating four historic dormitories on the former Johnson & Wales University Campus (recently named the Mosaic Community Campus) into 154 affordable apartments for families in Denver. The renovation is underway, and we expect to begin welcoming tenants in spring 2024. In 2021, the Denver campus of Johnson & Wales University closed, and the Urban Land Conservancy, Denver Housing Authority, and Denver Public Schools purchased the campus to bring affordable housing and community uses to this important redevelopment opportunity. If you’ve ever been to the campus, you might have been struck by the exquisite brick buildings. We don’t see architecture like that every day in Denver. So, what were these buildings and what does this have to do with Women’s History month?
Well, the campus was originally a women’s college! A few of us on the Real Estate team have learned a lot about these buildings over the last few months. The first building on the campus dates to 1909 and the campus has a rich history in Denver. Due to the age and history of the buildings, we were able to unlock over $10 million in historic tax credits for the renovation. We owe a debt of gratitude to Kristi Miniello, and her partner Susan Lankford, our historic consultant, who dug deep into the archives to tell the amazing story of these beautiful historic buildings and the people who walked the halls.
The Colorado Woman’s College was formally chartered in 1888 by Reverend Robert Cameron, of Denver’s first Baptist church, who felt it was an important unmet need in Colorado. It would be the State’s first women’s college and would help advance women’s higher education in Colorado. It took almost two decades and tireless effort from dedicated supporters to raise sufficient funds to build the school. Women from the community were active fundraisers and organized a march in 1902 to galvanize support after construction stalled due to a budget shortfall.
The Colorado Woman’s College opened its doors in 1909 with 59 students. The first building was named after the school’s first president, Jay Treat, and is now St. Elizabeth’s School, an intentionally inclusive episcopal school, one of our campus partners. The College was incredibly successful, and enrollment grew quickly, necessitating expansion in the 1920s, 1940s, and 1960s, when our four buildings were constructed. The College continued until 1981 when it was acquired by the University of Denver.
When I read the history of the College that Kristi and Susan put together, I was struck by how much has changed for women’s education and women’s work opportunities over the decades that the College operated. When the College began, the philosophy of the founders was that education would enhance women’s roles as wives, homemakers, and mothers. My grandmother went to college around this time. She might have taken courses in homemaking and child-rearing. And yet, not long after the College opened, women got the right to vote. Not long after that, women contributed to the war effort and worked outside of the home, and the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s completely transformed women’s work. My mother went to college around this time. She studied history and never imagined a life without a fulfilling career. Somewhere along the line, we decided that education for women, as Kristi so eloquently noted, “was for the sake of the woman and not the sake of her future children.”
I can’t help but wonder what it was like to study at the Colorado Woman’s College in those early days, and how many women were feeling stuck, ahead of their time. As I sit here today, and I look around at all the impressive women I work with at Archway and in this field, I am sure grateful for the progress these women, and so many others, made to move the needle.
Historic content: Kristi Miniello of Miniello Consulting and Susan Lankford.